In a time of knee buckling uncertainty and constraints, government and industry must join together and “stretch our assumptions” said Martha Johnson, head of the General Services Administration, in a keynote address at FOSE, a government technology event held in Washington, D.C.

“We should join arms at a time like this and collaborate, not separate,” said Johnson.

Johnson emphasized the culture shift taking place in government procurement, moving away from the government notion of needing to “own everything” and thinking about the best way to use government time and resources. In many cases, Johnson said, that means getting out of operations maintenance and product management.

Citing the challenges faced across government, Johnson emphasized the role of GSA as a model and test bed for the rest of government. When it comes to implementing innovative solutions – to cut costs, go green, or increase efficiency – GSA is stepping up to the plate to take on such tasks in the effort to drive the rest of government forward.

Data is just one of the arenas Johnson discussed, noting that GSA is a source of a “huge amount of data.” One of the ways they’re looking to increase efficiency is by using that data to make better buying decisions. Johnson cited the government’s $15 billion annual expenditures on travel as one area where the GSA is looking to use data to cut costs. As the biggest travel consumer in the world, the U.S. government needs to look at where it can cut travel expenditures by analyzing relevant data, Johnson said.

Johnson noted the difficulty government employees face in making buying decisions, and the stress-factor in trying to get the best buy. By taking data and analyzing it, government employees will have more knowledge at their disposal to ease the difficulty in making the best purchasing decision.

“We’re trying to put data in your hands,” said Johnson.

GSA isn’t just putting data into the hands of government procurement specialists – it’s also putting its data into the cloud. Johnson cited data centers as one key area of inefficiency in government that the GSA is looking to address. GSA is looking to the cloud to drive down costs, and has already implemented cloud solutions at GSA headquarters, with hopes of giving agencies the contracting vehicles they need to procure the same solutions themselves.

All of these ideas, Johnson noted, are about helping the federal government find “new solutions and new synergies.”

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